Sunday Lipi | 20th issue | August, 3rd Week

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Achingliu Kamei

India | View Profile

THE HUNTING

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It was the beginning of autumn and the villagers had worked hard in their fields for the better part of the year. Everyone in the village expected a good harvest. They were talking about the flawless seed sowing ceremony performed by Kadiganglung, the virgin boy. The priests of the village congratulated themselves for having selected the right Pheidoupou.

“Kadiganglung, go tell your father I need new tools for my loin loom,” said his mother, when he came to visit her from his khangchiu.
“Let the boy have some food and rice wine first,” said his grandmother. She dotted this seventh grandson of hers. She brought out boiled yam, king chili paste mixed with mustard juice and rice wine, for she knew they were his favourite. It was time for late noon meal. His mother and grandmother shared the food together with him.
“Have the others gone to the field?” asked Kadiganglung.
“Yes, they have stayed over in the fields. It has now been a week. They might come back any day now,” said grandma.

Then they talked about the shocking thing that had recently happened in the village.
There was a hunting accident. Two hunters had gone hunting in the previous month and one was speared accidentally by his friend. Grandmother looked left and right and then said in whispers, “But you know there are talks about the grudge that did not get buried.”
“Grandmother, are you implying that it was a revenge?” asked Kadiganglung.
His mother joined in, “There were so many gaps in the story. Something did not fit. But since the deceased family did not want to take the matter to the Pei, who are we to meddle in their affairs.”
His mother was a very observant woman and wise. She had been like the sun for her children. She was beautiful and kind. But she usually remained quiet in front of male elders. But to her sons and among other women, she brought energy, life and good advice.
“Whatever it be, better not go hunting by twos. I heard they did not do any rites and ceremonies before they went. Not even a small one,” rues his grandmother.
Their conversation was interrupted when the family members came back from the field.

***

In a neighbouring village, around the same time Kadiganglung was born, Sangailiu was also born. She was the third granddaughter of the elderly medicine woman. The medicine woman lived alone in a big house left to her by her husband. Her youngest son lived separately in another part of the village. The villagers came to the medicine woman’s house only when they absolutely had to. There were talks in the village that whenever they enter her house, a cold chill would go down their spines and could barely breathe.

But to Sangailiu, who stayed with her grandmother, everything was normal. There was nothing different from the other houses she had been to. Sangailiu did not go to stay in the liuchu even when she came of age, because someone needed to stay with the grandmother. After having a meal of thunmalimei-gan, her grandmother’s favourite curry, Sangailiu got ready her spinning wheel. She would work on it, as her grandmother taught her the uses of the herbs in medicine. The taste and smell of the curry still permeated the house. Sangailiu also like this curry, if it had dried river fish. Fermented bamboo shoots, fresh pumpkin leaves, dried river fish and ginger to garnish. It was one of the most nutritious food. They sat near the fire getting ready for the ritual- the ritual of grandmother teaching her granddaughter the uses of herbs. With no male members to boss around or to take care of, Sangailiu absorbed and absorbed her grandmother’s teaching. A young sapling growing free.

“Remember all the names for these different wild gingers. This one is to ward off evil spirit, this one for stomach pain, this one for recuperating from sickness,” said grandmother, taking time to point to each one and showing her the differences in looks and smell.
“Ugh, grandma, this one smells horrible!” said Sangailiu, showing her grandmother the most pungent one.
“Yes, that’s why it is very effective to ward off the evil. When a baby would not stop crying, you chew that and spit it around the house. Immediately, the baby will stop crying,” replied grandmother.
Like this their nights would be spent near the fire.

Some of the villagers who dared to come near the grandmother and talked to her asked her why she was teaching Sangailiu all that she knew.
“Why don’t you teach one of your grandsons the knowledge of herbal medicine and the healing rites? Girls will marry and go away to other people’s home. All that we invest in them will go to waste,” one granny commented.
Grandmother retorted, “What business is yours to tell me this? Look what happened to my sons. Had I passed down my knowledge to them, everything have been gone to Taruai-Ram, land of the dead, by now.”

Before Sangailiu reached her puberty, she had learnt so much but there were still lots more to learn. Her grandmother did things no other women in the village did. She planted behind her house many kinds of wild herbs and edible plants she brought from the forest. She also often cooked laulin, amaranthus; gankhiang, hibiscus cannabinus and plantain, along with other vegetables.
She made Sangailiu eat raw vegetables too, like ganpalu, houttuynia cordata with mustard leaves juice and king chilly; Kuaklei, pennyworth; and ganamnui, allium hookeri among others.

Whenever she cooked inkhonathoi, bitter melon (momordica charantia), she would tell Sangailiu how important it was to eat the bitter curry, so that the tiger would not eat her. Grandmother was referring to a folk tale where a tiger was given a piece of the bitter vegetable by an old woman to taste, saying it was her flesh. The tiger ran away, after having tasted it, as it was too bitter. Sangailiu ate whatever was given to her by her grandmother, because she would explain why she should eat it. She sometimes wished her grandmother was like the other grandmothers, giving only sweet and tasty things to their grandchildren. Sangailiu was never sick a day in her life.

***

Kadiganglung was not even a teenager when he was taken by his father and his friends for a hunt. He still remembered that they had to camp at the village hunting turf for days. He had an experience he could never forget. It became his favourite story later on to tell the younger ones. Every hunter had many stories, wild, funny or intriguing embellished stories to tell around the fire at nights to eager ears in the Khangchiu.
One night, many years later, Kadiganglung was called back to the Khangchiu to tell to the young boys a story about hunting expedition. He told them his favourite story.
“We started off that day for a three days hunting trip. I was still a young adult living in the Khangchiu. But the married men came to sleep in the Khangchiu, away from their women. The muh (the priest), offered a blemish-free rooster to the river, the mountain and the forest spirits. He then lowered his voice in a conspiratorial tone. During the omen taking to see whether the hunt will be successful of not, the muh seemed to tilt ever so slightly the rooster on one side, so the right leg could be over the left leg.”
Some of the boys giggled. Hearing that, a much older man sitting with them cleared his throat loudly. Kadiganglung took the cue and went on.
“Each of us carried our own napduam, meal packets for the journey. I was so frightened of the dark nights. The forest seemed to have glowing eyes at nights. Uncles kept the fire burning all night. The next morning, we moved out from the camp site in twos and threes. I was making too much noise, an elder man scolded me, so I walked around with a long face for some time, but I got more scolding from another uncle, so I stopped. Around noon, I got so tired, I had to sit down. So I selected a fallen tree trunk and sat down on it. I thought the log was softer than other logs, but I did not pay much attention. Then it seemed to move. I jumped up, startled! It looked like a python! I screamed a mighty scream, which I was not supposed to, then I ran like the spirits were after me.”
That brought a lot of laughter from the young listeners.
“Fortunately my father was nearby. When I told him I saw a log moved, he called another man and we went back to the place. Father and his friend silently approached what seemed to be like a log. On reaching it, they looked at each other.
Father chanted, “Here is something good”
“Spirit of the forest, you know it has provided itself to us”, said father’s friend.
Father then continued, “We will take you, big and mighty one. You are respected. We are thankful” then they did the needful.
A little boy asked in a faint, terrified voice, “What did they do?”’
A bigger boy answer, “Silly boy. They killed it.”
Kadiganglung then continued, “It was a very big python. The men brought it back to the village and shared it with all. Now that’s the end of the story.
Remember, it’s important to always be thankful for what you have. And the little you have must be shared with the community.
Now go to bed, you all.”’

***

The villagers begged Kadiganglung’s father to take their sons along for hunting, whenever they learnt that he was going hunting. Sometimes, he agreed to take the ones who were quiet, but have fire burning in their eyes. But most of the time, he went quietly. Hunting was a dangerous venture. Many died not only from wild bears mauling, but from ambush by enemies.
There are hunters who knew instinctively what day will be good to go hunting and which area in the forest they will find big game. Kadiganglung was one such. It was like the forest spirit guided him. He was an ordained hunter. Time went by and Kadiganglung came of age when he could choose his hunting partners. A good day was selected to go on a big hunt with his friends. The previous night of the departure, he had that dream again. He was running away from something, perhaps a wild spirit, sweating and not able to breathe. The hair on his arms and neck stood on end in fear. As soon as he was on a bridge, a hornbill flew over him. He heard a spine chilling scream. Then he woke up, sweating profusely, though it was a cold day. He had not dreamed this dream for many moons. Why was this dream coming back now?
During the morning meal, his mother spoke to him.
“Kadiganglung, you are one who has the mark of one of your ancestors. You know the birth mark on your right chest. Last night I dreamt that a spirit tiger was prowling near the place where your placenta was buried. I had this feeling of danger and great fear overcame me. It was dark and I could not see properly. I was holding all the special gingers. I woke up shivering. It does not bode well. Call off this hunting trip.”
A dark cloud gathered in his brow fleetingly. Then kadiganglung responded, “But mother, the muh has already performed the rites and ceremonies for the hunt. The whole village is depending on us. And my friends will be so disappointed if I pulled out at the last minute.”
He wanted to tell his mother that it must be a bad dream, but he just could not bring himself to tell her. He had, so many times in the past learned that her dreams were prophetic.
Seeing that her son already had made up his mind, she finished her food quickly and disappeared into her room. She was waiting for him in the front of the house when he came out. She muttered something and handed to him something like dried roots.
“Keep these with you at all times.”

***

The hunters trudged hard through the forest, their daos put to good use, clearing the path. It was hard going. The monsoon had regenerated the forest and it was dense. They reached their camping ground and set up camp. It was a clear beautiful night. The forest was brilliantly lit by the moon. The stars sparkled and danced. This night, the hunters did not have the time to admire the night sky. They had a job to do. They crushed mosses and leaves and rubbed it on themselves. Human smell could be carried far by the wind. Animals have very sharp sense of smell. It was at this stage the thrill of the hunt sets in. The danger that lays ahead added to the adrenaline rush.
The hunters stalked a deer. Stalking manoeuver is one of the most important part in a hunt. One slip-up and you have lost your chance. You would have to start all over again. While they were stalking, they came across a huge pug mark. It looked like a tiger’s but it was too big. The hunters prayed silently to the wind, rivers and mountains for protection. They trod carefully on the leaves trying not to make noise. The crackling noise when stepped on dry twigs and leaves were a dead giveaway. There was something strange with this pug mark. It seemed to be going round in circles and sometimes seemed to overstep on that of the deer’s hoof print. As they stalked the deer’s print, somehow Kadiganglung got separated from the other hunters.

Kadiganglung went deeper and deeper into the heart of the forest. The forest sound changed. A deep throbbing rumble emanated from it. The air stilled and less sunlight filtered down to the forest floor. The huge rocks took on strange shapes. The pug marks were clearer now. On looking up at a boulder, kadiganglung could make out two malevolent eyes looking down at him. In the next instant, the thing that looked like a tiger sprang down. It seemed to fly down, claws and jaws open to attack. Kadigonglung’s scream of fear and the forest animals’ startled cries reverberated through the forest. Birds flew from their perches, monkeys scampered and smaller animals dashed in all directions. Panic and confusion reigned.
Kadiganglung tried to duck under a stone overhang, but was not fast enough. The tiger sprang for his throat, but got instead his left shoulder blade. The searing pain went through his whole body. For what seemed like eternity, time stood still. No sound emanated from his mouth. Then finally he screamed. With his good hand he tried to spear the tiger, but it was too quick for him. He fought for his life in a dreamlike state.
In the meanwhile, the other hunters were tracking the tiger’s print and Kadiganglung’s faint foot print. They were confused and wary why Kadiganglung was stalking a tiger. Little did they know that Kadiganglung only saw the deer’s prints. Suddenly they heard a piercing scream a little ahead. They rushed. An animal that looked like a tiger was clawing him. They screamed and rushed at the animal. Seeing that it was outnumbered, it disappeared into the forest.

***

The village medicine man, unable to heal Kadiganglung, advised Kadiganglung’s family to call the medicine woman from the neighbouring village.
The medicine woman came to the village with her granddaughter Sangailiu in tow. When she opened the little pouch tied to his neck, she knew that it saved him from the malevolent spirit. She asked who gave him that, Kadiganglung responded, “My mother.” The old medicine woman quietly nodded. Among the medicines she brought included gall bladders, livers, fats of different animals, a dried paw of a tiger and various herbs and roots.

After months of treatment, Kadiganglung got better and strong again. Sangailiu too looked after him with love and care.

***

THE INFLUENCE OF BAD FRIENDS

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There lived a girl whose name was Kémi. She was born and bred into a poor family of Mr and Mrs Lákáayé. Her parents tried their best to satisfy her.

Despite her poor background, she did not live a luxurious life. She used to take the first position in her class. With her excellent academic performance in secondary school, she became popular in the school. Everybody was anxious to see her give them advice on how they could also excel in their academics. Kémi won various prizes on the speech and prize-giving day. She later obtained Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) form through the assistance of her class teacher who gave her the form fee. She sat the examination and came out in flying colours. It was later announced by the UTME Board that she had the highest score in the examination and she was given the scholarship to study Medicine at the University of Lagos, Lagos, Nigeria. Her parents were very glad when the news of their daughter’s scholarship got to them.

It was in April that year when Kemi received her admission letter and she packed all her loads and headed to school to begin her first semester. After the release of her first semester examination results, she had straight A’s which made her had a cumulative grade point average of 5.0. The news of her excellent performance spread within and outside the campus. She again became very popular and she was made the head of the class (HOC) in their year one second semester.

Right from her 100 level to 300 level, she maintained her position as the best. She had the opportunity to represent her school in national and international competitions and won various prizes. Towards the end of her 300 level, she started making friends with some bad girls who were into drug trafficking. From then, her academic performance started deteriorating. Her CGPA was reduced to 3.0.

The news of her poor academic performance got to their Course Adviser and he advised her to buckle down in the next examination, but she refused to listen. Kèmi’s friend, Rose, had already influenced her into drug trafficking and chose a boyfriend for her. She could not read as she used to. She started going out with her boyfriend from one hotel to another.

A week before her final semester examination, she was invited by her boyfriend to meet him in one of the biggest hotels in Lagos. When she got there, her boyfriend persuaded her to deliver a suitcase to a London-based drug dealer, not knowing that the suitcase was full of cocaine. When she got to Muritala Mohammed International Airport, she was thoroughly searched by a Customs Officer who later discovered 100kg of cocaine in her suitcase. She was surprised when she was accused of drug trafficking. Immediately she was arrested, she took permission to call her boyfriend but he could not be reached on phone. Then she carried her cross. No parents, friends or boyfriend and lecturers could bail her out of her predicament. She was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment with hard labour.
If Kèmi had listened to the advice of her parents and lecturers “not to be influenced by bad friends,” she would not have been sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.

The Cannibalistic Era

The Cannibalistic Era

In the distant depth of their evil minds,
Fishes eat fishes in the river to become fat
Is their common slogan.
From the nook of their fraudulent heart,
The sentence, “dogs eat the flesh
Of other animals after all” proceeds.
Kings of the world eat the heart
Of other kings,
their general belief.
To be great in life,
You have to be bold
plus a little bit wickedness,
their common view.
Friends kill friends for money!
Children kill parents, and vice versa, for wealth!
Husbands betray wives’ trust in them,
Trust of being caring;
Just because they want to climb
the social ladder!
Some people are made
the sacrificial lambs
for others’ comfortable living!

Stairs

At the top of the highest stairs happened tragedy. A podge staggered and screaming he fell down backwards together with others. An old woman falling to an old man, scalped his bald spot by her denture. Blinded by blood flooding his eyes he waved his walking stick sticking it into an eye of a nice chick. This nice chick is Basia. Basia had nice bust. Falling down she suffocated Adaś by her bust. Adaś fell into Asians insanely flashing camera flashes. Before they realized what had happened they were the mass of broken bones. Downstairs covered trembling bloody pulp. Untouched stairs worked on taking victims to the top. These were the stairs to heaven – they took everyone to the last journey.

Harbinger

Indrani Datta

No Man at all can be living Forever
And we must be compassionate,
Donate your stuff before going,
Life will end in ashes!

Give the child a bowl full of love,
Colour the sky of your grieving foe,
O captain!you are the strongest ones,
Paint the rainbow.

wake up! the night will fall apart,
You are the harbinger of dawn,
The power of daybreak finds light,
Help the destitute.

words full of humanity in you
Must echo the sound of mankind,
Since nature never did betray us
And So on man!

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